Mooncake Madness!!!Posted: September 21, 2011
I always envied those with big families, all those family reunions and holidays spent together. Growing up, my holidays were celebrated with other Chinese families, close family friends, feasting together. As I got older, however, we all grew apart, and with my mom in China and my dad working all the time, my holidays were spent alone with Ailen, my best childhood friend, and her parents. Can’t say it was not enough because I consider them family, but it still was’t the same. The excitement was lost. But for the first time in many, many years, since before I started college, I got to spend a holiday with a whole lot of family, and boy was it glorious!
September 12th, or the 15th of August on the Chinese lunar calendar, was the mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu Jie) when families gather to celebrate by eating mooncakes. People go crazy over mooncakes, giving and receiving, eating and sharing. It’s mooncake madness!
In America, I never celebrated such a holiday. I had heard of it, and I had eaten mooncakes (never much enjoyed them), but my family did not celebrate it. This year, however, I got to spend that day with my mother’s side of the family in Kunming.
My aunt rose early in the morning to go grocery shopping and brought home various greens, mushrooms that only grow in the Yunnan summertime, a whole chicken for soup , three kinds of noodles, ground meat for dumplings, and an entire bag of wonton wrappers (enough for hundreds, maybe thousands of wontons) which she mistook for her own groceries. My “big aunt” (Da jiuma) arrived early to help my “middle aunt” (xiao yi) prep for lunch. I helped them wrap wontons! When the rest of my uncles, aunts and cousins arrived, we began to eat. We ate noodles and wontons and soup, saving the main dishes of crab, thousand year egg, spicy stewed chicken, stir fried chives and pork, and various vegetables, for dinner. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal, especially when it is stuff I can’t get in America.
The entire day consisted of cooking, eating, watching TV, drinking tea and beer (Budweiser!! How American!!), playing Mahjohng (I’m a pro!), eating mooncakes, and just enjoying the company of family.
The night ended with good conversation on our rooftop and with this lovely view:
Apparently, the moon hasn’t shined that bright in 40 years. It was almost blinding!
As children go off to school in far away places, parents travel for work, and grandparents stay at home, families are increasingly getting split apart. Therefore, holidays such as the mid-Autumn Festival which was traditionally celebrated with the entire family is now in recent years just a phone call and a bite of mooncake. This is normally the case with my family as well, but due to unusual and very fortunate circumstances, we got to eat mooncakes together.
Sigh…it’s good to be home. And 20 pounds heavier.